Ten days had passed quickly. During his secluded time in the lavish room, an attendant, sent by Ariel, has visited Zax, but was dismissed right away. Zax wanted to spend the ten days getting to know his new strength and contemplate how to use his remaining year in New Earth. For that he required privacy and seclusion.
Ten days later the attendant returned and humbly showed Zax out of the Path Arena from his luxuriant dwelling in its VIP floor.
Getting home to cave twenty five by a company aircraft of the Path Arena, there were messages from Don and Anet waiting for Zax and kept by his parents.
Although it was never said outloud, Don’s and Marksim’s goal in recruiting Zax as an Eden Formation’s student and Pearl, from the very beginning, was for him to glorify the school in the great Martial Competition.
Still in the Martial Competition, when Don heard that Zax relinquished his participation in the competition and even his place in the top ten, she instantly displayed a grave countenance. It was only after she were praised by Supreme Ruler Ariel and paid attention to the veneration of the other people present toward the feats of her student, that she heaved a breath of relief.
Yes, Zax lost and his place in the competition was annulled, but his might shone bright and the back hair of every men and women, regardless of age, stood on end when he entered and left the fighting stage.
That being said, the matter of Zax’s task was not disclosed to Don or anyone else.
Returning to the matter at hand… The message left by Don was quite familiar in its content to a Get Well card, finishing with “Hope to see you back in school, to celebrate your irrefutable performance in the greatest Martial event of Kingdom Earth!”.
Anet’s message was more emotional. Last she saw Zax he was heavily wounded and not long after he was taken to be treated, Talhera announced that due to his injuries he will not be able rejoin the competition.
Of course, when Marco verbally conveyed Anet’s request to let her know that he is okay when he will get back, he held back the flushed cheeks and moist eyes.
“Are you really fine now?” As a mother, despite how tall and sturdy her son grew to be, Laylen was not convinced when Zax first reassured her.
“I’m completely fine mom”. Zax held her shoulder and smiled confidently to relieve his mother concern.
He refrained from going into details over his “miraculous” recovery and breakthrough. It was not a subject that ever interested his parents, and no matter how breathless they will be by knowing his level of strength, they will still prefer for him and their eldest daughter to have a common way of life.
Of everyone currently at the house, the only one in a different world, virtually five seconds after Zax got home and gave her a warm hug, was little Liz. Laying on the living room’s floor and tilting her legs back and forth, as she drew on the screen of a small tablet, Liz had zero to none care over anything related to the world “Martial”, and if her big brother or big sister were not there to play with or take to Valgarel, in this after kindergarten hour, she will do well to occupy herself without the help of anyone else.
“Laylen, our boy is fine”. Marco steeled himself for his wife, and because for him it was more easy his eldest daughter’s and son’s choices. “Zax, you should go visit Anet. Call her, see if she is home or in school and go tell her that you are well”.
“I will, dad”. Zax said. “Mom, dad”, he turned down his voice to a whisper. “Later today I’m leaving to Valgarel. There is an important, non risky, matter that I have to take care of, but I’m not sure when I’ll return”.
“Your meaning, Zax?” Marco asked, although in his heart, he and Laylen could reluctantly guess what Zax intended.
“I’m planning to start a long session of closed doors training”. It was not the first time Zax informed his parents before he entered beyond closed doors, this time, however, due to the knowledge that about a year from today he will leave New Earth, it was difficult for him to hide the guilt of departing for a long span of time.
Laylen contemplated for a moment before taking her son’s hand from her shoulder and holding it. “Go see Anet”.
They were oblivious to his futuristic plans, so they complied, as they always do.
Anet was staying at Eden Formation, so when Zax called her, they agreed to meet in a park several blocks from the school. It was Zax’s preference, since he did not want to waste time being congratulated by Don or anyone else in Eden Formation who knows about the Martial Competition, regardless if it is for his victories or simply recuperation.
“Then I want to go with you!” Anet said stubbornly.
“To leave New Earth?! You can’t! You absolutely can’t!”
The two spoke freely since only few elderly people were in the park and Anet also erected a formation around them to restrict the sound of their voices.
Of their overall conversation, Zax did not divulge the task Ariel gave him or the existence of the five powers, only mentioned that he was offered the possibility to venture outside of New Earth and that it is the communal prize of the Martial competition.
The details he omitted, Zax done so because his understanding of the five powers, who rule the world above ground, was less than fundamental and his task, with accordance to the impression he received from Ariel, could be a lot more dangerous than a regular expedition.
“Then what can I do, Zax? If you will enter closed doors training by the time you’ll come out, you might need to leave and it’s frightening me not to know for how long!”
Initially Anet was exuberant when Zax shortly explained to her about the opportunity citizens of New Earth have to resurface from below the ground and see the blue sky. Now, though, the prospect of Zax leaving, alone, and who knows for how long, was the only thing in her mind, even if she understood that it is not as simple as he made it out to be.
Zax felt palpitations in his heart. He truly was ashamed of himself for the pain he put his loved ones, more so when they did not conceal it. He could tell his parents were not content with the up and coming closed door session, he was grateful that little Liz was still too young to comprehend concept of a yearlong separation, he was mournful that once she will look for him he will not be there, especially in this period of her growth and innocent age. When he was at her age, Zetsa never left for such a long time.
Zax unknowingly imitated his father from a bit earlier today and steeled himself. He did not attempt to justify his decisions; from his point of view they were already made.
But he loved the tearful young woman who sat next to him on the wooden bench, and he was not cold as those who could see into his selfishness may think, so he did his utmost to comfort her.
“Anet, it is not a forever departure…” Zax caressed her cheek and raised her head so their eyes could meet. “Please, listen to me… The next breakthroughs of my soul and the fifth bottleneck of insight are imminent. Whether I’ll enter closed doors now or on a later date, it would take just as long for me to finish. The difference is… that I don’t know a lot about the world above ground, so by preparing myself as best as I can before going to experience it, I would be able to faster get familiarize with it, better be capable of handling its hazards, and more assure that I can protect you when the time where you can accompany will come”.
Anet sniffed. She noticed the lack of a definite day of return; however she knew that Zax, since childhood, strode on paths she can thoughtlessly follow. Her arrival to Valgarel, for example, was due time, not a second before Zax was sure of her safety. Nowadays, because of her level of cultivation, to Grandmaster Kartion’s cave she does not require his supervision.
In Anet’s heart a small passage was engraved, in essence the words she kept silently were the hope to always walk side by side with Zax, only now there was a small addition, “to walk together above ground, just like in New Earth”.
It pained Anet, that by recalling this passage she grudgingly gave her consent to Zax.
Seeing the change in Anet’s countenance, the release of the tension from her facial muscles, feeling how her body stopped being stiff, Zax knew that she will not oppose his decisions anymore.
“The moment I will exit my closed doors training, I will look for you right away”. He softly pulled her closer to him, to kiss the two salty trails on her cheeks and as they both felt their faces getting warmer, he kissed her lips.
Zax left Anet with a request, asking her to look after little Liz for him. Since four years ago, this should be the longest session of closed doors training that he will enter. And although Zetsa comes home more often than in the past, Zax feared for an empty space in his little sister’s heart will appear. To prevent such a case from happening, he wanted Anet to replace him.
Atop the peak of the tallest mountain in a certain cave in Valgarel, stands a marvelous blue tower. In it, several figures sat in a wide circle.
“A Martial competition with such prizes, a chance to leave New Earth, moreover Valgarel is also involved”.
Grandmaster Kartion and Kartius, along with all the other members of the household but Laivien, reflected over the amazing revelation Zax just narrated to them.
Before his seclusion, Zax decided to inform mainly his Master and Grandmaster Kartion of the things he learned from Ariel, but the two, after hearing merely few of his words, have asked him to wait a while and summoned the other members of the household. Since the subject was too inconceivable they said that his Martial brothers and sisters should not be excluded from hearing about it.
He told everyone everything except from the task he was given and the small Blue Stone that he received from Ariel.
“A rank above Martial Mortal… Immortals… Master, is it another realm, the fourth one?” Simel asked with deep expression.
Grandmaster Kartion shook his head in resignation. “I don’t know. In truth, I was not even sure about the title of the third realm before young Zax confirmed couple of things I heard in the past. I can only affirm the credibility of this information. Someone of Supreme Ruler Ariel Dauch’s caliber has not reason to play tricks on a junior”.
“Zax, are you really planning to go above ground?” Zetsa inquired in a serious tone.
Currently, he is the sole member in the household who did not break through the second realm. According to the rules of the five powers he explained, only first realm cultivators, possibly anyone in the first realm, can leave New Earth to the world above ground. If he truly to do so a year from now, he would be all on his own in a territory he, everyone in the household, knows nothing about.
As his big sister, Zetsa could not help be feel distressed for her little brother.
“I do, after I’ll comprehend the fifth bottleneck of insight and my soul will break through to the second realm. The five powers’ rules state that only second realm bodily cultivators and mist cultivators cannot leave New Earth without joining one of them. A first realm bodily cultivator with a second realm soul will not have a problem to travel underneath the blue sky unobstructed by the five powers”.
Zetsa slightly clenched her teeth. She wanted to retort yet did not have the words. Risks are unavoidable on the Martial path, but when it comes to her little brother… Every step he took toward the Martial path since the days when she trained in her inadequate apartment was a step she induced before him, hence in advance could know that it is not beyond his limits.
Even when he became Kartius’s apprentice… his advancement was under the direction of someone she trusted her life with.
Who can she turn to that can assure and make her believe that this next step her beloved little brother intends to take is within his strength to stride?
“Little brother, tell me, is there a special procedure to join one of the five powers?” Mes suddenly asked. Simultaneously, for one reason or another, his question attracted the attention of everybody else.
“Beasts can join the Violet Scaled Troops and Blue Sea”. Zax replied and turned to Grandmaster Kartion. “To know more, Grandmaster, you should visit His Valor Ozeyn”.
“Mes, do you also want to leave New Earth?” Shulip, in her human form, asked the question on everyone’s minds.
“You should have discussed privately with Master before asking Zax”. Raroen rebuked.
“I will, big brother Raroen, only If I’ll really feel like see how the world above looks like. And it’s not like I’m abandoning the household if I’ll try to go above ground. This is my home, Master is my father, and the relationship of us all in my heart is thicker than blood. I just want to know out of curiosity…”
“Enough, Mes”, Grandmaster Kartion cut him near the end of his argument.
“Master”, Mes turned to him with humbleness. “The world above ground is a dream of any human and beast in New Earth. My dream, too! The five powers, if they are unfair to us, native of New Earth, I won’t join them even if it means that I’ll have to spend the rest of my life surround by earth. But if joining the Violet Scaled Troops or Blue Sea can benefit us, I think that we should consider it. You heard younger brother Zax. Even the Supreme Rulers of Kingdom Earth, even our Valgarel, send the young and brightest to join these powers regularly!”
An outburst of enthusiasm exploded from Mes.
“Until we will know, in further details, more about the five powers, their intentions, and their treatments of their New Earth’s recruits, there will not be an unequivocal decision or action with regard to these five powers”. Grandmaster Kartion said, aiming his words to everyone, but one person.
“Zax, your condition allows you what seems to be a rare opportunity, indeed. I will not oppose it if you want to leave New Earth. However, if your Master will say otherwise, that is between you and him”.
Right after Grandmaster Kartion’s said his piece, all eyes turned to Kartius, most beseeching were Zetsa’s.
Till now Kartion sat, arms crossed in his humanoid form, his stag head pondering.
“Go, Martial son, cultivate your soul, comprehend the fifth bottleneck and go to where we dream and currently cannot follow”.